Navy playing like cohesive unit

October 01, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Navy's Midshipmen played what was their best overall game Saturday when they put together a complete effort, combining offense and defense, to produce a 31-20 victory over rival Air Force.

It was the first game in this year's round-robin series among Navy, Air Force and Army that determines the winner of the Commander in Chief's Trophy. While Air Force has won the trophy the most with 16 titles, Navy has won it the past four years and hopes to make it five straight.

After the game, coach Paul Johnson downplayed the significance of the win but couldn't hide his pleasure on a number of levels.

"I am excited for our players," he said. "They did a tremendous job. They really hustled out there.

"The trophy is a big deal for us. It's important to us and our alumni. No use trying to disguise it. But all this win did was give us a chance to play for the Commander in Chief's Trophy."

This marked the first game the Navy defense took pressure off the offense. When the offense misfired at the start of the second half and gave Air Force great field position at Navy's 18-yard line, the defense allowed only a field goal.

That's not to say it was perfect. Air Force's Chad Hall scored on an easy 16-yard run when the only Navy defender anywhere close was taken out of the play.

But as the game went on, the Mids' defense got stronger, especially in the fourth quarter when it forced a punt, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal.

"This was the best game of the year for us on defense," Navy senior linebacker Matt Wimsatt said. "We cut down on mistakes."

Johnson said he will give his team today and tomorrow off before starting preparation for its game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 10.

"We grew up a lot last week against Duke," Johnson said. "They have some good players and we learned a lot in that game. This week, we started looking more like a Navy football team. We did what we had to do. We stopped them some, and at the end we blocked a field goal. It wasn't always pretty, but we got the job done."

On the offensive side, Johnson was pleased with the performance of alternating fullbacks Eric Kettani (17 carries for 58 yards) and Adam Ballard (11 carries for 38 yards). And he singled out the performance of Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who played the entire game, ran for 101 yards and scored touchdowns of 2 yards and 78 yards, while also pitching for two others by Zerbin Singleton and Reggie Campbell.

"He really understands the offense," Johnson said. "He has a good feel for the option."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Navy Rewind

Replay

Navy's drive that led to a 24-20 lead with 13:01 to play. The Midshipmen converted two fourth downs, including one at the 2-yard line that saw Eric Kettani make the block that allowed quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada to score what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown.

Erase

Navy's first offensive series in the second half. The Mids received the ball for the start of the second half, but Reggie Campbell muffed the catch and made it to the 13. After losing ground on the next three plays, Navy punted at the 4-yard line, giving Air Force terrific field position at Navy's 18-yard line.

Fast forward

Navy (3-2) has a week off before traveling to Pittsburgh (2-3) on Wednesday, Oct. 10, to face the Panthers. The 8 p.m. game will be carried nationally by ESPN.

SANDRA McKEE

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